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By A.S. King
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Curriculum Subject: Guidance/Health: Emotions, Personal Development: Individuality, Science: Biology
Grades: 10 & up
Book Club Discussion Guide
Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.
So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.
The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience-and find the way out.
★ “Characters unfold like riddles before the reader, while King uses magical realism and a motif of standardized testing to emphasize the flaw in obtaining answers without confronting reality’s hard questions. Beautiful prose, poetry, and surreal imagery combine for an utterly original story that urges readers to question, love, and believe—or risk explosion.”—Booklist
★ “King’s novel blends the magical and the mundane in a deadpan delivery that makes it difficult to tell one from the other. This, of course, is the point of her ambitious and affecting work, which suggests that the personal tragedies and trauma we internalize change the ways we see and operate in the world. The main characters have, the novel reveals, been transformed in distinct ways by tragedy, and the effects of these experiences are evident in the narrative, making the story itself a challenging one to discern. ‘Somewhere in every mind,’ the last pages of the book assert, ‘is an opening to crawl through.’ King’s latest novel demands that readers search for this opening.”—The Horn Book
★ “It’s bizarre, compelling, and not like anything else.”—Publishers Weekly
★ “King has crafted a universe within these pages full of surrealist characters and twists—inside-out humans and escapes to locations that may or may not be real. She achieves a fine, delicate balance through her gutting prose and ensemble cast of hurt-filled characters. The broken feeling of the protagonists carries through the length of the book, yet the ending still concludes with a tone of redemption. At once a statement on the culture of modern schools as well as mental health issues, this novel is an ambitious, haunting work of art.”—School Library Journal
★ “It is a story to which everyone can relate. Under all of the strangeness, magic, and metaphor, this is a story about fear, shame, guilt, lies, truth, trauma, escape, and rescue. It is a story about constantly seeking answers, even when you cannot articulate the questions. It is about trusting in things you cannot see, and understanding that safety is a lie, but so is the idea that someone is damaged beyond repair. And it is about the hardest test of all: surviving adolescence. Masterfully written and brilliantly bizarre, this is King at her most innovative yet.”—Voice of Youth Advocates